Yesterday was my last Herceptin infusion, a targeted therapy medication that I started with my chemo infusions and lasted for an entire year, 17 total doses. It specifically treats HER2 positive tumors and cancer cells. It was an exciting day of completion! Nurses sang to me, bells were rung, hugs were given and I even received a “champion” medal. It was a milestone day!
I have shared my journey through my blog and through social media over the last year. My last blog post was 4 months ago explaining my brain fog and difficulty with writing due to my lack of focus. I talked about the side effects I was still experiencing and what it felt like living in the “in between.”
The last few months have had their challenges. My joint pain and neuropathy resulted in a referral to a rheumatologist who ran every test to rule out any possible autoimmune disease that could explain the worsening symptoms. He expected them to come back negative and they did. His opinion was that I was experiencing side effects of chemo and my continuing Herceptin therapy. My medical oncologist felt the joint pain was more likely due to the chemo induced menopause. Either way, I started on Cymbalta for joint and nerve pain and after a follow up and increase to my dose, my joint pain and neuropathy started to resolve and became minimal. Then coincidentally (or maybe not), two weeks later at the end of August, I had a period for the first time in 10 months.
So in September my rheumatologist suggested stopping Cymbalta to see if it was the Cymbalta or the hormone changes relieving my symptoms. After a week off Cymbalta and experiencing some horrible side effects, I went back on it and will remain on it until all my treatments and surgery recovery are complete or longer if the mild neuropathy symptoms I still experience do not resolve.
One additional complication from my double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery in March, and the immobility that came with that, is I have been dealing with frozen shoulder in my right shoulder since about 4-6 weeks after surgery. I have been going to physical therapy twice a week since June. It is a very painful and limiting condition and could take months to resolve.
Overall, I feel healthier and my energy is increasing and I am also working with a physical therapist on overall wellness and physical conditioning to build up my strength.
With the end of treatments behind me, the next step is surgery to complete reconstruction. My surgery is scheduled for Monday October 7th with my plastic surgeon. He will create nipples from skin on my new breasts. I have been without nipples since March. He will also even out and smooth out my hips and tummy which will require some scar revision and some lipo. He will also remove my port in my chest since I have completed my infusions. The surgery is a day surgery and will last about 2 hours. Recovery is expected to take about 2 weeks with minimal discomfort. This surgery is one more step before the final step of tattooing color on my newly created nipples and adding color for areolas, which will take place 3 months from now after my nipples heal.
Then we move into follow up stage. I will be following up with my medical oncologist every 3 months for 2 years, then every 6 months for 3 years, then annually after that. I will also follow up with my breast surgeon, my thyroid Dr and my cardiologist every 6 months for now.
This is the end of the tunnel, so to speak! I feel the light on my face now! Soon to be basking in it!!!
Spiritually I walk with my Savior, the valley is behind me as I embark on the final climb to my mountaintop moment!!! I can’t wait to see the view from up there. I know it will be glorious!
I have done a lot of reflecting this last month of how far I’ve come this last year. I am forever grateful and filled with joy despite any suffering. My God is big enough, my husband has been the hands and feet of Christ to me, my family has loved me well and my friends and neighbors have shown me unconditional support. All my people have loved me, held me, encouraged me, supported me, prayed for me, fed me, walked with me and cheered me on. Jesus was not the only one there with me in the valley of the shadow, I felt each of you gathered around us each step of the way! I am grateful.
To God be the glory for His never changing faithfulness and healing hand and all of you that He used to graciously lavish His love and care on me. There is hope beyond this!